Developer: Kobo Inc.
Price: free Download on the App Store
The App Store is jam packed with eReader competitors. Apple, Amazon, Google and Barnes & Noble all have a presence with apps for their respective platforms. A new eReader app has joined the pack with a unique proposition for solitary bookworms.
Kobo differentiates itself by taking a more social approach to the eReader experience. Sharing, awards and notifications are all give a distinctly different experience with Kobo than with its competitors.
Reading and sharing earn you awards, much the same way gaining badges works in Foursquare. A reading stats tab tracks your reading tendencies and progress, with some pretty neat statistics and charts that give insight into your reading habits. The activity tab is a Facebook-like stream of the new books you started as well as awards won. Some books also include a "Faces and Places" feature, which highlights characters and locations. Tapping on their icon brings up additional information. If the pop-ups become too annoying or distracting (which I found to be the case) they can be turned off.
Kobo 's design is far more attractive than competitors Google and Amazon, as the eReader app makes better use of the iPad's graphical features. It also attempts to use the page-turning feature found in iBooks, but it is not executed as well (fortunately, like many features, you can also opt out of this feature).
One advantage Kobo holds over its rivals is that, like iBooks, shopping for books is done from inside the application. The Kindle, Nook and Google Books apps all take you to Safari for shopping.
While Kobo has some strong features not found in other eReader apps, it lacks the polish needed for a stronger recommendation. For example, during testing the app froze twice, which necessitated clearing the local cache through settings in order to get things working again. Also, accessing the Kobo store from within the app was slow and buggy, with long waits necessary to access content.
Kobo has a great approach, but it has a large hill to climb against some well-financed competitors. Strengthening its unique features and fixing some of the bugs give it the best chance for success.